Coconut oil trend opens doors for Pacific farmers
More doors are opening for Pacific farmers with the use of coconut oil now a growing trend in health and beauty markets worldwide.
More doors are opening for Pacific farmers with the use of coconut oil now a growing trend in health and beauty markets world-wide.
Blue Coconut Oil, who source all their product from Melanesia is one of the only pacific coconut oil products currently being sold on New Zealand supermarket shelves.
The rest are mostly imports from Asia.
The owner, New Zealander John Drew says his growing business has helped put back into the communities he's worked with and he's proud to have partnered with the Pacific.
He spoke to Indira Stewart.
JOHN DREW: We deal in at the village level for supply and sometimes I'm sure even the chiefs can't count the number of people (laughs) present at any one day. One thing I have noticed is it's largely the women that I have to rely on to maintain the quality and delivery and they will deliver on their promises. So, come on guys! sharpen up! (laughs) So that was quite funny but we're starting to get a significant in-road into putting value back into village communities. We're very proud of that. We've also put water tanks into villages that have made a huge difference. You know, some of these poor women were carting water for fourteen kilometres on a daily basis. And to see the tears of gratitude on their eyes was something else.
INDIRA STEWART: Did you expect to go into business and make that kind of an impact?
JD: Not really. I didn't realise how primitive, how isolated a lot of the communities were and geography is the biggest tyranny. Some of the outer islands in Fiji for example only get a ship, if they're lucky, once a month, so it presents huge logistical problems of anything they produce or want to buy is compromised by the distance they are away. So one of the big things for me was appreciating just how vast and spread out a lot of these communities are and how we can find solutions to enable them to get value for what a beautiful pacific island products. Not only the coconut oil but a myriad of products out there.
IS: This is just an assumption but I don't suppose you speak many pacific languages, dealing in business with the pacific - how did you deal with the language barrier, if at all?
JD: I'm very good at body language (laughs) The commonality is I think well understood but it's amazing what an open heart and a smile on the face will communicate. So yeah, it hasn't always gone smoothly I have to say (laughs)
IS: Did you have to deal with a lot of different cultural protocols in different pacific countries that you went to and how did you approach that?
JD: As you probably well understand, most of them are patriarchal societies so being an old codger, I could come in at the top level. So I found myself sitting around chief tables or nakamals...kava was a bit of a barrier for me at times (laughs) keep on the business level but I think we communicate very well and everyone's trying for the same thing. At the end of the day these people are similar to everybody.
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